ROSE HILL — While Circle seniors Hanna Flaming and Kyrstie Ehm are veteran, dominating outside hitters, the Thunderbirds knew they needed to diversify their offensive attack.
"We want to use the whole net this year," Circle coach Shelly Nibarger said.
Circle did just that Tuesday night at Rose Hill. The Thunderbirds (12-1) defeated Collegiate 25-16, 25-9, defeated Rose Hill 12-25, 25-18, 25-12 and defeated Wellington 25-12, 25-10.
Flaming led Circle with five kills against Collegiate and 12 against Rose Hill, while Ehm had four against Collegiate, five against Rose Hill. Sam Jernigan had 12 in the two matches, Haley Barrett six. Even setter Aimi Orton showed she's a threat to hit from the right side.
Barrett is only 5-foot-7, but she's an athletic middle. And then there's Jernigan, a 6-2 senior, who transferred this year from Northfield, a small Wichita private school. She's an intimidating presence.
"She has the big hands up at the net and she hits straight down," Flaming said.
"(Jernigan) frustrates teams," Nibarger said. "I can't tell you the number of down balls and free balls she's blocked. They think they're just giving it back to us, and bam! She has blocked it."
While Circle rolled past Collegiate (10-3), the Thunderbirds needed all their hitters against Rose Hill (10-3). Especially after the Rockets pummeled Circle in the first game.
"Coming out and losing that bad in the first game is embarrassing," Flaming said.
"Boy, that was humbling," Nibarger said. "I did my very best to get angry, and I'm not very good at that."
Circle responded. The Thunderbirds' serve-receive improved, as did their decisions at the net. Flaming and Jernigan each had four kills in the second game and Jernigan had three stuff blocks in the match. Late in the third game, Ehm had three straight kills, while Flaming had kills on two of the match's final three points.
"In that first set, I thought we were using our serve, making them work really hard on offense," Rose Hill coach Leah Rempel said. "In Set 2, we forgot to use our serve in the same way, and that changed the flow and rhythm of the game."
Rose Hill also went to three games with Collegiate, winning 25-19, 25-27, 26-24 in the night's final match. With Rose Hill trailing 24-21, Rockets junior Jessica McDougald had powerful kills on points 22, 23 and 25.
"She did really well at coming and hitting hard," Rempel said. "We have to have her swinging hard."
Rose Hill defeated Wellington 25-19, 25-11, while Collegiate defeated Wellington 25-9, 25-7.